Spotlight: Supermarket Street Sweep

Eric and Cooper Downing crossing the finish line! Photo courtesy of Supermarket Street Sweep

December 3rd was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the Food Bank. We had a clear sky, the sun was shining, and a father and son arrived on a tandem bicycle…pulling four full shopping carts full of food to donate!

Cargo race winners and tandem cyclists Eric Downing and his seven-year old son Cooper Sprocket Downing were not alone. They were part of the 201 bicyclists participating in the 6th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep!  Each year, participants crisscross the city visiting local supermarkets and bringing back thousands of pounds of donated groceries. This year, everyone was excited about the results: almost 7,990 pounds of food was collected and $9,652 was raised.

The Downings were an impressive sight, hauling their train of shopping carts engineered to move and turn in unison on their bicycle-built-for-two. Eric, an architect and former professional cyclist, has passed on his passion for cycling and charitable work to his son Cooper Sprocket (who is named after the toothed wheel a bike’s chain rides along). This was their second year in the race – they came back to avenge their narrow defeat last year by hauling in even more food to donate to the Food Bank.

Eric told us, “This is an extra special race. Jennifer [Oh Hatfield] is phenomenal. She puts this whole thing together. We are indebted to her for creating a race that supports the Food Bank.” While there are lots of bicycle races out there, Eric told us “This is the most selfless race I’ve ever participated in, it’s wonderful!”

photo of Eric and Cooper by Jonathan Koshi http://www.flickr.com/photos/koshi/

Jennifer Oh Hatfield who organizes the race every year (with co-organizers Kacey O’Kelly, Jonathan Koshi, and Mike Spencer) wanted to create an event that was “…both a fun and useful way for Bay Area cyclists to help a great cause.” She was impressed by Eric and Cooper, telling us, “It’s great that we have families come out. Eric and Cooper were determined to do well this year and they showed up with an ingenious shopping cart train to win the cargo race!” Proud of her racers as well as her volunteers, Jennifer added “We are successful because of our great participants, our volunteers who come out to count food and help organize things, and of course our sponsors — a ton from the Bay Area and even nationwide.”

It’s always fun to see how different groups of people pair their interests with charitable acts. The Supermarket Street Sweep is an exciting, competitive way to get cyclists involved with food justice and the Food Bank. “I would like to see this type of race for charity in every community. There are cyclists across the U.S. just as there are people in need across the U.S.,” Eric Downing said.

Finally, when asked what he would say to people to encourage them to join the race next year Cooper Sprocket said “F-U-N-Z-O! Because it’s funzo!”

Race results by year:
2006: 80 racers – 1,172 lbs of food
2007: 110 racers – 1,595 lbs.
2008: 150 racers – 5,266 lbs.
2009: 198 racers – 7,507 lbs.
2010: 171 racers – 6,920 lbs. + $4,877
2011: 201 racers – 7,990 lbs. +$9,652

Great Turkey returns in Marin

The Great Turkey has been a Marin holiday institution since 1992, sitting pretty on its hay bales at the Town Center Corte Madera, while accepting donations of food, cash, and hugs from children and the young at heart.

“I am really surprised the ‘World’s Largest Turkey’ is still going strong!” says Lead Turkey Architect John “Lucky” Lister. “Sometimes I meet young mothers who filled the turkey as kids, coming back with their children to donate.”

Twenty years ago, John had been working at Industrial Light and Magic on major films such as Peggy Sue Got Married, Howard the Duck, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when the Food Bank approached him about an idea for an interactive Thanksgiving display for the Town Center Corte Madera. “It turned out to be quite a challenge to design a turkey that was not as repulsive as the real bird.” Eventually, John was able to make an adorable turkey that Marin residents have loved for years.

Originally having been built to withstand the November weather, the Turkey was so popular that the mall displayed it until New Year’s every year.  A few years ago, on what was almost the Turkey’s 18th birthday, it was decided that a new bird needed to be built.

It took three years to redesign and recreate the Great Turkey.  Thanks to Ken Sly of Dimensional Graphics, the new Turkey is more waterproof than the previous sculpture, which will hopefully help her last through fowl weather.

Special thanks to:  Josh Koral at Acme Scenery in Brisbane, who kindly let John use their shop to construct the bird.  David Fiend of Parts and Templates in San Carlos, who cut out more than 300 feathers and curved structure pieces. Ed Raymond of the stagehands union IATSE #16, who helped get the word out for volunteers. And of course, to John Lister, who put in the bulk of the work, logging over 200 hours to make our feathered friend.

SF legal community provides over $3,000,000 worth of much-needed food, thanks to Food from the Bar

Food from the Bar Chairs Jonathan Storper and Jim Donato

The San Francisco legal community really raised the bar in 2011, breaking all their previous records by bringing in $513,783 and 13,386 pounds of food to help end hunger in San Francisco and Marin. Since the San Francisco Food Bank can turn every dollar donated into $6 worth of food, that adds up to well over $3,000,000 worth of much-needed groceries for hungry families. Firms also completed 700 volunteer shifts, sorting and packing tons of food in our warehouse.

Now in its 20th year, Food from the Bar is a month-long campaign, in partnership with The Bar Association of San Francisco, that challenges law firms and legal departments throughout the city to fight hunger. It results in creative fundraising projects – including a miniature golf course that materialized in one law office, and attention-getting costumes, like the hotdog and peapod outfits sported by this year’s event chairs, Jim Donato (Partner, Shearman & Sterling) and Jonathan Storper (Partner, Hanson Bridgett) to support the cause.

Everyone at the food bank appreciates the dedication and hard work that goes into Food from the Bar. This year’s record is particularly meaningful because the San Francisco Food Bank has seen a 32 percent increase in demand for food assistance.

Here are the winning firms, along with our Platinum partners and number of meals their generous contributions will provide:

Per Capita Awards

Grand Prize: Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
First Place: Fremont Group
Second Place : Bechtel Legal & Risk Management
Third Place Miller Law Group
Top Food Raiser:  Kirkland & Ellis, LLP
Top Volunteer Recruiter: Seyfarth Shaw LLP
Top Fundraising Achievement: Fremont Group
Rookie of the Year: Bechtel Legal & Risk Management

Platinum Partners

  • Stein & Lubin LLP- 42,867 meals
  • O’Melveny & Myers LLP- 53,868 meals
  • Farella Braun + Martel LLP- 55,448 meals
  • Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP- 56, 969 meals
  • Keker & Van Nest LLP- 63,300 meals
  • Shartsis Friese LLP- 67,755 meals
  • Bechtel Legal & Risk Management- 77,578 meals
  • PG&E Law Department – 84,975 meals
  • Kirkland & Ellis, LLP – 91,666 meals
  • Hanson Bridgett – 93,370 meals
  • Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP – 131,323 meals
  • Fremont Group – 247,080 meals

Pudge is worth his weight in food for the hungry

"Woof! I'm ready for my close-up!" Pudge the bulldog turned out in his finest to support the ABC 7 Holiday Food Drive this week.

People come up with all sorts of creative ways to collect food for the San Francisco Food Bank. Case in point, Valerie Lo, who invited friends (both human and canine) over for a party. The goal? To match twice the weight of her bulldog, Pudge, in donated food.

Pudge proudly poses with donations. How could you resist that face?

Luckily, Pudge is – well – pudgy. So the goal was 100 pounds of food, or “two Pudges,” as Valerie put it. Not only did Valerie’s guests bring 156 pounds of food (more than three Pudges), they also wrote $170 in checks – which enables the San Francisco Food Bank to distribute $1,020 worth of food!

Valerie and Pudge also turned out (in the rain, no less) to support the ABC 7 Holiday Food Drive this week. We’re hoping it brings in thousands of Pudges’ worth of food, because this holiday season, the need is greater than ever. We need cash, too. If you’d like to donate, click here, and we’ll give Pudge the credit. Consider giving $50 (a dollar for every pound of Pudge). That will enable us to distribute $300 worth of food. We think Pudge would approve!

Pudge checks out the haul.

Bike Riders Bring in 7,507 Pounds of Food!

We’re used to having big tractor-trailer trucks roll up to the San Francisco Food Bank’s loading dock – that’s how most of the 36.5 million pounds of food moving through our warehouse this year will arrive.

But last Saturday, 7,507 pounds of food showed up on some very different wheels – bicycles! It was thanks to the 4th Annual Supermarket Street Sweep, a competition that challenges bike riders to collect and deliver food to our warehouse. One hundred ninety-eight riders participated this year, and they topped the total food collected at last year’s event by more than a ton!

There were prizes for the fastest racers to collect a list of required items from various grocery stores (with the receipts to prove it) and prizes for bikers who showed up with the weightiest loads of food.

This year’s biggest haul – a whopping 962 pounds – was pedaled in by a single rider pulling a trailer. You can see him in action, along with the other racers, in the video up above.

When the bikers arrived at our warehouse, we weighed-in each load, while organizers checked to make sure competitors had purchased all the items on their “required list.” Here’s a time-lapse video of the food as it arrived – from the first speedy competitors, to the mountains of food hauled in later by those in the cargo category:

Many thanks to the event organizers and all the participants, who provided enough food for nearly 6,000 meals! If you’re interested in joining the Supermarket Street Sweep next year, you’ll find more information here.  And you can see a gallery of photos from Saturday’s event here.

Hunger Takes Over the Headlines

A pantry volunteer holds golden beets, one of many healthy SF Food Bank offerings for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, the San Francisco Food Bank made sure that 30,000 households enjoyed a fresh, healthy holiday dinner. But shocking news stories about hunger in the Bay Area – and across our country – underscore the fact that more and more people every day are seeking help.

In the past two years, San Francisco has seen an 18% increase in people receiving food stamps; in Marin the increase is an astounding 45%. This New York Times article talks about the rising need all across the U.S. – and notes that many of those eligible in California aren’t even receiving food stamps:

Food Stamp Use Soars

With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children…

Also, the Times has created an interactive map showing changes in food stamp usage across the country.

You might be amazed to know how much of our food goes to waste. This NBC story reveals that…

40% Of Food Produced Goes To Waste, While One In Six Go Hungry

Vicki Escarra, the president and CEO of Feeding America [the national organization of food banks], calls hunger America’s “dirty little secret.” Mara Schiavocampo from NBC Nightly News discovered America’s hunger problems first-hand as she visited a struggling family…

Seniors have been hit particularly hard by the recession. Read about it in his Associated Press story:

Recession sends older Americans to food pantries

The number of seniors living alone who seek help from food pantries in the U.S. increased 81 percent to 408,000 in 2008, compared to 225,000 in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture…

Locally, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on the ever-growing number of requests that the San Francisco Food Bank is receiving for help:

More Americans going hungry

The San Francisco Food Bank has seen requests for assistance increase 20 percent compared with this time last year, with fewer donations, and will deliver Thanksgiving meals to 30,000 households, up from 22,000 last year…

The Chronicle reminded its readers that the holidays, coupled with a greater and greater, need make it crucial for all of us to help:

An opportune time to help feed the hungry

Pushed by recession, nearly 50 million people are skipping meals unwillingly, forgoing a balanced diet, or signing up for food stamps or giveaway programs, the measures used to come up a broad-brush picture of hunger in America. The figure is the highest on record since the Agriculture Department began tracking “food insecurity…”

What can you do to help? Volunteer at our warehouse or one of our grocery distribution pantries. Donate food or money – for every $1 donated, we can provide $9 worth of food to hungry San Franciscans. Urge your elected officials to make ending hunger a key part of their agenda. Visit our website to learn more.

SF Food Bank’s Gary Maxworthy at the White House

SFFB's Gary Maxworthy at the White House

SFFB's Gary Maxworthy at the White House

Gary Maxworthy, a San Francisco Food Bank board member and architect of the Farm to Family program, recently was invited to the White House. Here is his report:

I received an invitation to The White House and four days later, June 30, I was there in the East Room, listening to President Barack Obama announce and describe the new White House Office of Social Innovation.

Here is how it happened. The program I developed, Farm to Family, and I had been cited as an example when Michele Obama was introduced as the keynote speaker at a Volunteer and Social Innovation convention in San Francisco earlier that week.

I was honored for Farm to Family, and also as an example of a person working in an “encore” career using their experience and – in my case – knowledge of the food industry.

It all began when I was a Vista volunteer, working at the San Francisco Food Bank. We started Farm to Family in 2000, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need throughout California. The program directly connects California food growers and packers to food banks, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables which aren’t considered marketable – due to shape, size, slight blemishes or overproduction – but are still delicious and healthy to eat. In the past, this surplus produce was ploughed under, fed to animals or dumped in landfills.

The produce is distributed through more than 40 food banks, through the California Association of Food Banks, at no cost to those families receiving it. In 2009 we will distribute over 78 million pounds of produce, with more than 50 different crops represented. We estimate over 500,000 people in need receive Farm to Family fresh fruits and vegetables every week.

In 2007, I received a Purpose Prize for my work with Farm to Family. This prize recognizes people over 60 who are enjoying socially innovative encore careers. Thanks to the Purpose Prize, my work came to the White House’s attention.

Now about my trip.

First I did not get fly on Air Force One, sleep in the Lincoln bedroom or have breakfast with Michele and the kids. I did have the opportunity to see up close the strength of the President’s character, his leadership and charisma.

My day at the White House began with brunch at an elegant home, meeting others being honored. Reaching the White House and after going through security, we were free to look around a series of sitting and dining rooms close to the “East Room” where the president was to speak. It was a thrill to gaze out onto the lawn and the Washington Monument beyond from the interior of the White House.

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The Washington Monument, seen from inside the White House

The president spoke for about 20 minutes, announcing the new White House Office of Social Innovation and congratulating the Social Innovators invited for the event.

President Obama speaks about the new Office of Social Innovation (that's advisor David Gergen's head in the foreground)

President Obama speaks about the new Office of Social Innovation (that's advisor David Gergen's head in the foreground)

The White House office on Social Innovation’s mission is to encourage innovative programs, like Farm to Family, and to replicate them in other states.

Here are some fellow Purpose Prize winners who were also honored that day at the White House for their innovative programs.

After the main event, I had the opportunity to spend time with Jeff Bleich, a San Francisco resident now working in the White House as Special Council to the President. Jeff was instrumental in spearheading the Food Bank’s very successful “Food from the Bar” program (where law firms volunteer, run food drives and raise donations) for several years.

For me it was an honor to participate in the White House event, and gives me continued energy to help grow Farm to Family to serve more families in need!

If you wish to learn more about Farm to Family, here is a video:

For those interested in learning more about Purpose Prize, you’ll find more information here.

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